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Fatigue is widespread in the population, particularly among working people. Exhaustion disorder (ED), a clinical manifestation of burnout, is common, but, after treatment, about one-third still experience fatigue and other physical symptoms. We propose that in some instances, fatigue as a persistent physical symptom (PPS) might be a more appropriate formulation of ED patients' fatigue problems, and we suggest that ED patients who meet fatigue PPS criteria will differ from other ED patients in terms of psychological distress, non-fatigue PPSs and functional impairment. Questionnaires were sent to 10,956 members of a trade union of which 2479 (22.6%) responded. Of 1090 participants who met criteria for ED, 106 (9.7%) met criteria for fatigue as a PPS. Participants who met fatigue PPS criteria scored on average higher on measures of depression, anxiety and functional impairment and were more likely to have clinically significant scores. Moreover, they had 27 times higher odds of meeting other PPS subtypes and reported more non-fatigue PPS subtypes, suggesting a more complex health problem. Specific evidence-based interventions are available for both ED and PPSs, and therefore, it is crucial to accurately formulate the fatigue problem reported by patients to provide appropriate treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Environ Res Public Health

Publication Date





anxiety, burnout, depression, exhaustion disorder, functional impairment, medically unexplained symptoms, persistent physical symptoms, stress-related disorder, Anxiety, Burnout, Psychological, Depression, Fatigue, Humans, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires